Riki Ellison, one of the top lay experts in the field of missile defense released comments about the recent missile defense test that occurred on June 22nd. Ellison is the Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a non – profit located in Alexandria, Virginia. His comments are below:
“The most important technical accomplishment of the recent successful intercept test in space by the CE-II Ground Based Interceptor was to make this system’s capability to detect, cue, track, discriminate and intercept against a long range ballistic missile threat routine across the entire spectrum of sensors, shooters, operators, engineers, developers and testers. After five long years of failed and infrequent intercept tests, mishaps on different system parts, lack of investment and lack of will from leadership to improve the system, new leadership of the ground based missile defense team led by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency has made a significant difference in its approach that resulted in a “routine” space intercept. The intercept test this past Sunday has taken the mystery out of long range ballistic intercepts, as the test results put the GBI interceptor with the Aegis SM-3 Interceptor and the THAAD Interceptor in their ease of confidence in the overall mission to detect, track and destroy a ballistic missile warhead in space.
The success of this test enables a real ability and allowance to look at a variety of options to increase the reliability of the system to reduce the shot doctrine for the first time after a decade where than the only options were to either fix or ignore the current long range ground based interceptors. All indications show that the Initial Measuring Unit (IMU) on the CE-II Kill Vehicle performed flawlessly, thereby validating the fixes in both the hardware and software to dampen vibration from its rocket thrusters that caused failures in the past. The non- intercept test last year on this same solution with a CE-II interceptor successfully pushed the systems to its extremes, thereby setting the stage for reliability, validation and an expectation of a successful intercept on Sunday.
The test proved the uniqueness of this interceptor system which provides the only capability the nation has to intercept long range ballistic missiles. Its kill vehicle, the EKV, sets it apart from the nation’s other kill vehicles on existing systems due to its ability to independently hunt, seek and destroy at great ranges and speeds after final separation without constant reliance from outside sensor information, giving the EKV more autonomy and flexibility to defeat counter measures and decoys.
At the front of the options available is to aggressively move forward with replacing and modernizing all of the prototype CE-I and CE-II interceptors with a new redesign of the kill vehicle to drastically reduce the extremely large number of possible failure points of the current kill vehicle and obsolesce of its parts while enhancing its lethality and communication. That option would have the most compounding effect compared of any other option to increase reliability and reduce the shot doctrine as well as lower the cost of engagement and the $75 million cost of each interceptor. A middle-ground option would be to replace the fleet including the 14 additional GBIs that the President has requested with a high number of CE-II interceptors with this proven test configuration eventually making it a pure fleet and leveraging current and future discrimination sensors to make it more reliable. The low-end option would be to keep the fleet intact enabling the current CE-IIs in the fleet to be fully operational with the test configuration and keep the existing timeframe of replacement with possible minor upgrades to the existing CE-I interceptors to make them more reliable. All of these options or combinations of them depend on the calculus of the threat, the budget and the operational requirements of the war fighters that operate these systems.
All of these options would require continued testing for more engineering breakthroughs for increasing reliability than for validation as a “routine” test gives confidence but does not provide the steep engineering learning curve that you would receive from stretching the system. Risking failure in intercept tests and stretching the systems limits in non intercept tests are necessary so that you can improve the system rather than remaining stagnate with status quo. Missile defense and its development is all about continuing to stay ahead of the threats, as its most valuable asset is its demonstrated proven capability without ever firing a shot in combat to shape peace and prevent major conflict.”
Source: Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance